Today the Department for Transport have published their 2016 passenger figures for parts of the rail network, which both undermine the case for HS2 and demonstrate that there must be serious flaws in the DfT passenger forecast models.
The figures show that Euston station currently handles 163,800 passengers per day on all routes, whilst Government figures expect that HS2 would carry double that number of passengers, just on long distance HS2 trains to fewer destinations than the current Virgin services. Whilst one service out of Euston appears in each of the spring (17.46 to Crewe) and autumn (18.13 to Birmingham) top 10 most overcrowded trains, in both cases this is because these London Midland services are 8, not 12 carriages, and they are non-stop services to Milton Keynes, after which they are not overcrowded.
Figures also show that there has been a significant increase in short-distance commuting to other cities, which raises a rather large question mark about the DfT passenger forecasts published last week as part of the High-Level Output Specification (HLOS), which Government use to predict where investment in the railways is needed.
Last week, HLOS predicted that over the next five years there would be a 2.8% increase in the morning peak for passengers into Leeds, whilst Manchester passenger numbers would go up by just 2.2% over the same five year period. However, the actual passenger figures for just one year show a 7.8% peak increase for Leeds and a 7% increase for Manchester. If these trends are to continue, the Government forecast will be out by a factor of around 17 (16 & 18). The vast majority of these passengers are short distance commuters, with only about 10% of the trains into both these cities being long distance services, many of which make local stops where they can become overcrowded.
To demonstrate how clearly wrong the HLOS predictions are, Crossrail platforms at Liverpool St and Paddington are predicted to start off with immediately attracting tens of thousands of passengers, but then not have any passenger growth for the following five years.
Despite all this, last week Transport Secretary Chris Grayling gave the go ahead for HS2, whilst questioning the need for extra platforms at Manchester Piccadilly and cancelling a mass of electrification programmes, claiming that bi-mode electric diesel trains could provide faster services, something which due to the extra weight of such trains is simply not true. It does somehow seem to be odds with the concept of getting rid of fossil-fuel driven cars, to go and cancel electric trains in favour of dual-mode diesel ones.
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 Campaign Manager responded;
“The overarching trend for rail passenger increases over recent years has been for short distance commuters, who will continue to face increasingly desperate crush hour conditions, as the actual rail passenger statistics are polls apart from the forecasts Government are using to predict where investment is needed.”
“It is clear that HS2 delivers capacity where it is needed the least, but with the cancellation of the electrification projects last week, the Government has confirmed it will be putting all its’ eggs in the HS2 basket for decades to come. By announcing bi-mode electric/diesel trains instead of full electrification, many services will not get better as promised by Government, but will end up worse because heavier dual engine trains aren’t as fast as the current ones.”
“There has never been a comprehensive study of what the UK needs in terms of rail infrastructure, and these statistics make it absolutely clear that the DfT simply haven’t got a grasp of clearly undeniable facts. By ignoring what is actually happening in the real world and betting the farm on HS2 and HS2 only, we are on the fast track to disaster.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, said:
“These figures show that HS2 is the wrong investment in the wrong places. The big issue in rail is people commuting, not long distance travellers. HS2 will do nothing for the ordinary commuting, apart from suck investment away from the investments that could improve short distance journeys. We’ve already seen this earlier this month when electrification and other rail improvements for ordinary passengers have been dropped. It’s time that the Government looked again at HS2 and cancelled it, and used the money where it is needed more.”
Penny Gaines added:
“With the government’s latest plans for improving air quality, its bizarre that they have dropped rail electrification. Replacing diesel trains with electric ones is entirely under the Government’s control, whereas replacing existing cars with electric ones is up to many millions of car owners. What’s more a massive increase in electric cars will also need a massive infrastructure investment in the national grid to get electricity to numerous new charging stations charging stations.”